Wednesday, October 27, 2010


On the way home today, Bill Bryson reading his book "At Home" to me, described a 19th century explorer who, after returning to England to find his fortune in tatters, retired to his bed too lethargic to write his own autobiography.
And my first thought was, "I'm not sure we missed much." Terrible. I have a suspicion of Autobiographies. Now, to be clear, we're not talking about memoirs - those books that can engage the reader while recanting a story of a specific time or experience.
Instead of engaging or amusing the autobiography often has an agenda. Instead of amusement they often have agendas and self-promotion. I attempted to read Carly Fiorina's autobiography yet found it a description of how she glossed through life, with effortless ease having one blessed opportunity after another come her way. Of course she worked hard.
Yet even if the work was supposed to be an honest account of one's personal history, we all put bias into our memories. Just ask any researcher who studies the recall of events. Of course, if you're involved in a traffic accident, you'll recall the situation as much to your favor as possible. However, even when the person was a disinterested observer researchers find people are unable to recall the event correctly (as compared to a video chronicle of the situation). How could that tendency not be magnified when looking at one's own life?
I imagine writing my own autobiography, yet my thought is, "Who the hell would care?" Really. I haven't Done anything. My life has been rich, yet benign & bourgeois. Granted, if you're reading this, you know me and probably find certain times of my life (specifically those you shared with me) more interesting and possibly worthy of a memoir, were I to find a better writer than myself to ghost write it.
Going beyond a memoir, for an autobiography, how do I choose which events to include? How do I determine what caused what? Did my reaction to having physicians as parents result me in shunning that profession or was it actually due to my decision that biology was numbingly dull? What impact did that 7th grade boyfriend actually have on me? How much truth is there in my job history narrative that I tell all potential employers?
Now, for someone who has a blog it may seem silly to say such things about autobiographies. You're probably right. And then, I don't really expect anyone to read my blog - I mean, don't you have better things to do?